with Rod Oram


B to B 2024

B to B 2023

Tour of NZ 2023


Tour Aotearoa

Coffee, culture

Aug 22, 2023

Day 22. Sunday, August 20. Jizzakh to Samarkand. 132km, with 954m of climbing.

Samarkand, the peach of an ancient Silk Road city, has stirred people’s imaginations for centuries. Today, we cyclists were just the latest travellers irresistibly drawn to it, as eager to experience and explore it as countless people have before us. And thank you, kind route planners, for scheduling us two rest days here to make the most of it.

While our journey west continued gently downhill, as it has for the past 10 days or so, we began today with a couple of hours of modest climbing up to a blip-of-a-plateau. The early morning light was beautiful, as the photo below attests when some of us paused for picture taking.

Almost as good was the genuine coffee stop about an hour later. The barista was meticulous and our drinks perfect. But he hid shyly behind his machine with his “shit happens” T-shirt suggesting he was yet to believe he was master of the beans.

Thereafter the day got a lot hotter, back up to 40C or so.  We take this very seriously, and have been well-briefed on the symptoms, because a couple of riders already have suffered from heat exhaustion – when their body temperature elevates and the only remedy is to stop riding, sit in the shade, drink lots and wait for the van to pick them up. Usually, they then take a day or two off riding to give their bodies time to recover.

After riding the very first three days of the tour in short sleeves (and copious sunscreen) I switched to my long-sleeved tops and am very grateful for the covering. They are a very light merino wool blend but amazingly, they aren’t the least itchy and they very effectively wick away sweat to help keep me a bit cooler. And I usually ride in the afternoons with a cotton bandana covering my scalp under my helmet, through which I periodically pour cold water to keep a cool head. So far so good…

Our first experience of Samarkand this afternoon was the absolute antithesis of ancient. As Uzbekistan’s second-largest city after the capital of Tashkent, it’s growing fast and is home to some half a million people. The last 12km of our ride was very urban, very modern though well-planned and built – including broad bike lanes that put Auckland to shame.

Likewise, our hotel is very modern, yet evocative of place and culture. Knowing old Samarkand and its magnificent monuments are just a couple of km down the road, we’re very eager to explore them tomorrow.